On behalf of our Department, Mark van Goor attended a small-scale educational meeting where experts in the field discuss the latest advances in molecular-level ion channel and transporter research through topical lectures. Each talk was divided into two parts, the first discussed the basics of an advanced structural biology, imaging or electrophysiology technique, followed by a second talk where that technique was used to solve relevant molecular biology questions.
The topics ranged from direct measurements of voltage-sensor amino acid sidechain movement during action potentials to the development of peptide-based anti-stroke medication that disrupts a pathological receptor in the brain that forms specifically during stroke.
The meeting took place in the beautiful town of Erice in Sicily. The town was established over 2500 years ago by the Phoenicians on an epic defensive cliff that overlooks the blue-green wonder of the Mediterranean. The narrow picturesque streets are paved with cobblestones, polished by thousands of years of traffic. Garbage is picked up by tiny minivans that carry a single garbage container and you’d have to be an extremely adept driver to get anywhere in the city. And as expected, being fluent in English was absolutely useless in dealing with the locals. Each day at lunch and after the final talk, we would all go out ’Italian-style’ to various different small restaurants to enjoy the amazing local cuisine, for hours on end, and to discuss even more science. It was a truly amazing experience to dine together with some of these highly-successful PIs and to discuss projects with my fellow PhD students.
The passion we share for fundamental science created wonderful, albeit fairly nerdy, outbursts of excitement about tiny deflections in electrophysiological readings and Angstrom-sized movements in structural models. I’d encourage everyone who works on ion transport mechanisms on a very fundamental level to look up the work of some of the speakers and to consider applying for the next installment.